The Unheard Story of David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

Introduction

Today we’re going to look at a popular TED talk by renowned author Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell is the author of popular books like Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point. His unique perspective and ability to explain complex ideas in simple ways has made him a popular author and speaker. He has given several excellent TED talks, including the one we’ll study today: “The Unheard Story of David and Goliath,” which is based upon one of the most famous stories in world history.

Vocabulary

Let’s start by looking at some useful vocabulary from the video.

Key Vocabulary

Underdog n. – someone who is perceived as having little chance of succeeding

Speculation n. – prediction or guesswork about the future

Shepherd n. – a person whose job it is to look after sheep

Giantism n. – an illness which causes excessive growth in the human body

Weapon n. – something used for fighting or to cause bodily harm

Improbable adj. – unlikely to be true or to occur

Metaphor n. – a figure of speech representing something else which it is not literally applied to

Expectation n. – something which is expected to happen

Warrior n. – someone whose job it is to fight

Vocab Test

Use the above vocabulary to fill in the blanks. You may need to change a word’s form to fit. (Answers are at the bottom of this page.)

  1. His account of events was considered to be _______________ by the jury.
  2. The team were considered _______________ and therefore no one expected them to win.
  3. The ______________ was undefeated and his enemies rightfully feared him.
  4. The teacher asked her students to read the Moby Dick and make note of
  5. “Your _______________ are too high, and that’s why you’re always disappointed,” she said.
  6. The lawyer said, “It’s pure ______________. You can’t prove my client was there.”
  7. The man was very big and everyone wondered if he suffered from ______________.
  8. The _____________ was found near the scene of the crime, but there were no fingerprints.
  9. The wolves attempted to kill his sheep, but the ______________ fought them off.

IELTS Listening Practice

Watch the following video. It will last 15:29. Attempt to do the following activities to test your listening skills.

 

Comprehension Questions

  1. When does the story take place?
  2. What is the dispute between the Israelites and the Philistines?
  3. What is the main event?
  4. What happens to the giant?
  5. What is the speaker’s interpretation of the story?
  6. What do most people think is the moral of this story?

Gap-fill

Skip ahead to 12:14 and fill in the blanks:

Well, it turns out that there’s been a great deal of _____1______ within the medical community over the years about whether there is something _________2__________ with Goliath, an attempt to make sense of all of those apparent anomalies. There have been many articles written. The first one was in ___3____ in the Indiana Medical Journal, and it started a chain of ______4_______ that starts with an explanation for Goliath’s height. So Goliath is head and shoulders above all of his peers in that era, and usually when someone is that far ________5_________, there’s an explanation for it. So the most common form of ______6_______ is a condition called acromegaly, and acromegaly is caused by a benign tumor on your pituitary gland that causes an overproduction of human growth hormone. And _________7__________, many of the most famous giants have all had acromegaly. So the tallest person of all time was a guy named Robert Wadlow who was still growing when he died at the age of 24 and he was _______8________. He had acromegaly. Do you remember the wrestler André the Giant? Famous. He had acromegaly. There’s even speculation that Abraham Lincoln had acromegaly. Anyone who’s _________9_________, that’s the first explanation we come up with. And acromegaly has a very distinct set of ______10_______ associated with it, principally having to do with vision. The pituitary tumor, ______11_______, often starts to compress the visual nerves in your brain, with the result that people with acromegaly have either double vision or they are profoundly nearsighted.

True or False?

Listen to the material and answer true or false to the following statements:

  1. Tel Aviv is located in the mountain range.
  2. The mountain range serves as a natural barrier against enemies.
  3. The armies are deadlocked because neither side can attack the other.
  4. The Israelites suggest the idea of single combat.
  5. Saul is enthusiastic about David’s chances of victory.
  6. Goliath feels insulted by David’s appearance.
  7. Malcolm Gladwell considers David to be an underdog.
  8. Medieval slingers were not accurate at hitting targets.
  9. Goliath is suffering from vision problems.
  10. Goliath could move quickly and accurately.

Note Completion

Watch the video again between 06:30 and 09:13. Complete the notes with no more than three words from the text

In ____1_____ warfare there are three ____________2___________: cavalry, infantry, and artillery.  Artillery includes slingers, who use a projectile, such as a ____3______ or a lead ball to launch towards their target. This is not like a ________4___________. Instead, it is an incredibly devastating ______5_____. David could probably fire a rock forward at ______6_________ per second. Moreover, the stones he used were particularly hard – they were __________7___________ of normal stones. Slingers from this ere were highly accurate and could kill a target at up to ______8________. David’s stone hit Goliath at his most vulnerable spot – _______9__________.

IELTS Speaking

On the topic of famous stories from the past, this speaking lesson will look at a potential IELTS Speaking Part 2 question about childhood stories.

Describe a favourite book in your childhood.

You should say:

What is it

Who is the writer of the book

What was the story of the book

and explain why it is your favourite book from childhood.

Sample Answer

Pay attention to underlined language points:

When I young I used to be a voracious reader, and I had several books of which I was particularly fond. My favourite book, however, was written by a famous children’s author called Dr. Seus. The book itself was called “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and is considered a classic children’s book. The book concerns a grumpy creature called “the Grinch” who hates Christmas and wants to destroy it for a nearby community. However, he finds that he has misunderstood Christmas, and the people’s love causes him to change for the better. In the end, he becomes a better person. The moral of the story is that commercialism is not at the heart of Christmas, but rather its core value is love. I consider this book to be my favourite because I was only allowed to read it at Christmas, and I would always read it with my family. For me, it sends a good message but also brings back very pleasant memories.

Language Points

“a voracious reader” – This means a person who reads lots of books. We don’t use the word “voracious” much in modern English, but this particular phrase is quite common, and sounds good. You can use it when asked about reading habits.

  • My brother is a voracious reader; he readers two books every week.
  • In order to be a good writer, you should be a voracious reader.

“of which I was particularly fond” – We are told, in English, not to end a sentence with a preposition. It’s not a strict rule, but it does sound better when avoided. The other way to say this sentence would end: “several books I was particularly fond of.” And that doesn’t sound very educated. This phrase is good to use when talking about things from your past which bring up good memories.

  • I have many students in my class, but there is one of whom I am particularly fond.
  • I enjoyed all the James Bond films, but there is one of which I am particularly fond.

“is considered a classic” – It’s good to avoid “IELTS phrases” like “everyone knows,” or “as we all know,” because these are not true. There is nothing in this world that everyone really knows. So in English we have phrases we use to generalize. When something from the past is widely considered popular, we would say it is “considered a classic.”

  • Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is considered a classic Beat Generation novel.
  • The Godfather is now considered a classic gangster movie.

“The book concerns” – This is a nice way to say “The book is about…” It sounds a little more academic.

  • The book concerns a man who is searching for the meaning of life.
  • The movie concerns a boy who was lost at sea.

“change for the better” – Often, IELTS students will use the word “improve” when sometimes there are more specific or varied ways to say this. Here, if we said that the man “improved” or simply that he “changed” it would be too vague.

  • After the government passed those reforms, the situation changed for the better.
  • Ever since we got that new computer system, things have really changed for the better.

“The moral of the story is” – This is actually quite a common phrase in English when talking about fiction, but we can also use it to talk about real life events. Usually it refers to old stories with clear moral lessons, but we can also apply it to things that happen to us each day.

  • Well, my wallet was stolen again! I’m angry at whoever took it, but the moral of the story is that I really need to be more careful in future.
  • Looking at David and Goliath, we often say that the moral of the story is the triumph of spirit in the face of adversity, but Malcolm Gladwell disagrees.

 

Answers

Vocab test

  1. improbable
  2. underdogs
  3. warrior
  4. metaphors
  5. expectations
  6. speculation
  7. giantism
  8. weapon
  9. shepherd

Comprehension

  1. 3000 years ago.
  2. The Philistines want to invade the Kingdom of Israel and split it in half.
  3. A stand-off occurs between the two armies, which is settled by “single combat”.
  4. David hits him between the eyes with a rock and cuts off his head, killing the giant.
  5. He suggests that we have misunderstood the story because David was never the underdog. The giant was disabled and David was wielding the world’s deadliest weapon at the time.
  6. Most people consider it an underdog story, wherein David triumphed against nearly insurmountable odds.

Gap-fill

  1. speculation
  2. fundamentally wrong
  3. 1960
  4. speculation
  5. out of the norm
  6. giantism
  7. throughout history
  8. 8 foot 11
  9. unusually tall
  10. side effects
  11. as it grows

True or False

  1. F – It’s located on the coastal plain.
  2. T
  3. T
  4. F – The Philistines sent their warrior first to suggest the idea.
  5. F – He thinks David will be killed by Goliath.
  6. T
  7. F – David had a powerful weapon, meaning he was not an underdog.
  8. F – They were very accurate.
  9. T
  10. F – He had trouble moving around by himself.

Note Completion

  1. ancient
  2. kinds of warrior
  3. rock
  4. child’s toy
  5. weapon
  6. 35 meters
  7. twice the density
  8. 200 yards
  9. between the eyes

 

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Author: David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural China, and loves to travel.

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